If you have patience for this kind of online debate, The New Republic is now running my extended response to Evgeny Morozov's review (along with a new response from him). It cites a number of the misleading or innacurate quotes that I reviewed yesterday, but the key passages come at the end. I'm quoting them here on their own because, irrespective of Morozov's essay, I think they capture what brought me to write Future Perfect in the first place, and where I see peer progressivism in the spectrum of political thought today:
I can understand why Morozov wants to see Internet-centrism in my work: he’s built his career around debunking that belief system, after all. And yes, I’m glad the Internet and the Web were invented; I think that the world is, on the whole, better off for their existence. I would be surprised if Morozov doesn’t feel that way himself. But Future Perfect goes to great lengths to separate the promise of peer networks from some naive faith in Internet liberation. The main lines of its argument arose in part out of two book-length studies of peer collaboration in the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries: The Ghost Map and The Invention Of Air. My last book, Where Good Ideas Come From, ended with a survey of hundreds of peer-produced innovations from the Renaissance to today. The deep roots of the idea date back to reading Jane Jacobs on the “organized complexity” of the city in my twenties, which ultimately led to my arguments for decentralization in my 2001 book Emergence. I’m giving Morozov the benefit of the doubt that he just hasn’t bothered to read any of those books, since he doesn’t mention them anywhere in the review. But if you added up all the words I’ve published on peer network architecture, I wager somewhere around ninety percent of them are devoted to pre-digital forms of collaboration: in the commonplace book or the 18th-century coffeehouse, or urban neighborhood formation, or the traditions of academic peer review, or in the guild systems of Renaissance Florence. If Morozov were only a little less obsessed with the Internet himself, he might have some very interesting things to say about that history. Instead, he has decided to reduce that diverse web of influences into a story of single-minded zealotry. He’s like a vampire slayer that has to keep planting capes and plastic fangs on his victims to stay in business.
The point I tried to make explicit in Future Perfect is one that I’ve been implicitly making for more than a decade now: that peer collaboration is an ancient tradition, with a history as rich and illustrious as the more commonly celebrated histories of states or markets. The Internet happens to be the most visible recent achievement in that tradition, but it is hardly the basis of my worldview. And there is nothing in Future Perfect (or any of these other works) that claims that decentralized, peer-network approaches will always outperform top-down approaches. It’s simply a question of emphasis. Liberals can still believe in the power and utility of markets, even if they tend to emphasize big government solutions; all but the most radical libertarians think that there are some important roles for government in our lives. Peer progressives are no different. We don’t think that everything in modern life should be re-engineered to follow the “logic of the Internet.” We just think that society has long benefited from non-market forms of open collaboration, and that there aren’t enough voices in the current political conversation reminding us of those benefits. For peer progressives, the Internet is a case-study and a role model, yes, but hardly a deity. We would be making the same argument had the Internet never been invented.